Half of today's preschoolers know George Washington was the first president of the United States; slightly more than half know another George, President Bush, is in the White House today.
And if they could select the nation's next leader? Mister Rogers would be their choice.Such are the results of a national survey of children's opinions of the presidency, conducted by Playskool in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Lincoln Logs, its popular classic toy that was introduced in 1916. Playskool polled 150 preschoolers in Augusta, Maine; Philadelphia; Seattle; St. Louis; and Toledo, Ohio.
Among the polls findings: Today's kids would be ambitious presidents.
If preschoolers were president of the United States, almost one-third (30 percent) say the first thing they would do is make peace in the world, while one-quarter (24 percent) would clean up the planet. However, youth has its priorities, and almost one-quarter (21 percent) would eat ice cream for every meal and 14 percent would stay up as late as they wanted.
Though children know how they'd like to change the world if they had a chance, most had no aspirations to become president when asked, "Would you want to be the president of the United States when you grow up?" More than half (56 percent) said no, while 44 percent of the preschoolers said yes.
When asked, "What does the president of the United States do?" nearly one-third (31 percent) indicate they believe the president's job is to keep track of all the money in the world, 28 percent think it's his job to keep peace and 22 percent say he locks up the bad guys. Other youngsters simply feel the president's job is to live in the White House (13 percent) or talk to people (8 percent). A 4-year-old boy matter-of-factly remarks, "He talks about taxes," and one 5-year-old girl explains, "He owns the country."
According to 11 percent of the children, the president lives at home with his parents (like they do). Ten percent of the younger children polled believe our president lives in a castle. The remainder of the children, nearly 80 percent, correctly identified the White House or Washington as his home.
When asked, "How long does the president of the United States keep his job?" responses range from "all day long" to "70 hundred million years." Only 6 percent really know how long the president keeps his job. Other children feel that his tenure lasts "until he gets bad," "until he gets more money" or "until he dies."
Nearly half (47 percent) of the children know our first president was George Washington. But 13 percent of the youngsters, for whom the concept of history may not yet extend beyond their lifetimes, named George Bush as our first president. Other ballots were cast for Ronald Reagan (11 percent) and Abraham Lincoln (10 percent), while 14 percent didn't know.
When asked, "Who is the president of the United States now?" more than half (55 percent) know that Bush is the current president. George Washington received 15 percent of the kids' vote. Abraham Lincoln (9 percent) and Ronald Reagan (6 percent) were also thought to be currently running the country.
Abraham Lincoln is a familiar figure among preschoolers; almost three-quarters (71 percent) acknowledge that they have heard of him. A distinct figure in American folklore, children associate Lincoln with the following characteristics: a president of the United States (38 percent); his beard and/or his top hat (31 percent); as having lived in a log cabin (24 percent); appearing on money (22 percent); freeing the slaves (16 percent); and the Civil War (13 percent). When asked, "What comes to mind when you think of Lincoln," a 6-year-old simply said, "He's honest and he doesn't cheat people."
If preschoolers could pick any famous person to be our country's next president, Fred Rogers of TV's "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood"would be moving into the White House. Almost half (45 percent) would vote for their television adviser; popular singer Janet Jackson and tough-guy Arnold Schwarzenegger would be runners-up (with 18 percent and 17 percent of the vote respectively). Letter-turner Vanna White would be supported by 12 percent, and movie hero Tom Cruise would finish last with 8 percent of the kids' vote.
However, if kids could select any person to be president, nearly one in four children feels that a friend or someone in his family would make the best president. One-third say, "someone with experience" would be best suited for the job. Others believe George Washington (13 percent) should be our next president. A 4-year-old boy nominated Mom. "I like my mom," said one child, while another child voted for "best friend, Chris, because he's bigger than me."